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Graduating senior’s mission is to keep people healthy and safe

by Chuck Gordon

A healthcare-loving biology major, Jacob Flowers got his EMT license so he can have a direct impact on people’s health. But being a student-athlete at Wingate, Flowers hasn’t yet been able to use that license. “I can’t work 12-hour shifts and also play football and also do school,” he says.

In the middle of a pandemic, Flowers managed to find a way to keep people safe and healthy that fit with his schedule. Over the summer, he organized a pair of Covid-19 vaccine drives in west Charlotte, getting about 100 people jabbed. And this past semester, he helped out with the Faith in the Vaccine Lyceum event on campus that was designed to ease students’ fears about the vaccines.

Now finished with both football and classes, Flowers can concentrate on his future. He is graduating this month after just three and a half years at Wingate, taking his biology degree back to Havelock, his eastern North Carolina hometown, where he plans to make use of his EMT license while preparing to apply to physician assistant master’s programs across the state.

Flowers is one of about 125 Wingate students earning undergraduate degrees this fall, joining 160 graduate students. Graduate Commencement will be held at 10 a.m. in Cuddy Arena on Saturday, followed by undergraduate Commencement at 2 p.m. This is the fourth fall commencement at Wingate and the first time that the event has been split into two ceremonies.

Flowers will receive his degree in the mail but has elected to walk across the stage in May, when his girlfriend and many of his friends are due to graduate. By that point, he expects to have logged hundreds of hours as an EMT. His plan for 2022 is to get more than the 1,000 patient-contact hours he needs before he can apply to PA school.

Jacob Flowers wearing a mask

In the meantime, he continues to promote vaccinations. “I feel like Covid is a public health emergency,” Flowers says. “It’s just really important to me to help and do my part. I want the public to be healthier. I love seeing people getting their vaccines, helping reduce transmissibility, helping reduce the number of cases, especially on our campus.”

In the spring, Flowers applied to work with Interfaith Youth Core’s Faith in the Vaccine initiative, which focuses on educating people about the vaccine, persuading people to get it, and providing access to it.

After being accepted into the program, Flowers teamed up with the nonprofit Wayfinders Charlotte, which provides educational opportunities to disadvantaged children, to hold a vaccine clinic during a back-to-school drive-through event in August. While Wayfinders volunteers gave out backpacks and school supplies, Flowers answered questions about the Covid vaccine and directed people to a table where they could get their first or second dose.

“We focused on that access part, providing access to people in these less privileged communities that may not have ways to access the vaccines otherwise,” he says.

More than 60 people took him up on his offer during the first clinic, while about 40 did so during a second clinic Flowers organized. “It was pretty awesome,” he says.

Focus on Wingate

Back on campus, Flowers helped organize a vaccine drive during Wingate’s Homecoming football game. Only a handful of people were vaccinated at that time. “We said, ‘Let’s not do another clinic, because Wingate already offers all these vaccine clinics,’” he says. “So we shifted our focus.”

On Dec. 1, Flowers and other Wingate students and faculty members hosted a Faith in the Vaccine Lyceum event, where they promoted the vaccine and answered questions. More than 100 people showed up.

“If we had 50 people who weren’t vaccinated who now might be considering it because of a presentation like that, that’s great,” Flowers says.

Flowers is convinced that, with the omicron variant threatening further Covid surges, increasing vaccination rates is imperative. So he continues to calmly allay fears about the vaccine whenever the opportunity arises.

“Most people that I talk to that are hesitant about getting the vaccine are worried about how quickly it was developed,” Flowers says. “The best answer is that the technology, for mRNA vaccines especially, has been under development for years. The bulk of the conceptual work and a lot of the framework for the mRNA vaccines had already been in place. They were just able to fast-track the development of it, because of how serious the problem is.

“If anybody ever has questions for me, I always answer them to the best of my ability and encourage them to get the vaccine.”

Learn more about studying biology at Wingate.

Dec. 17, 2021